In Utah (1850s
to 1890s), the average age of a 2nd wife was 17 (husband
average age early 30s) and the average age of a third wife
was 19 (husband average age mid to late 30s). The average
age in the USA for a first marriage in the late 19th century
was about 22.
Mormon men in
their 30s (or 40s or 50s) married teenagers because of the
shortage of Mormon girls for extra wives.
All census numbers
in Utah from about 1850 up to 1960 show more males than
females in the state.
Notice that if
the average age of a 2nd wife is 17, then there had to be
a lot of girls only 14 or 15 or 16 in order to make the
average 17 since there would have been some women in their
20s who became plural wives.
When Mormon men
in their 30s or 40s in the 19th century convinced a father
to give up his 15 year old shapely and attractive daughter
as a plural wife to some high ranking LDS man (possibly
an apostle or high councilman), the old dude couldn't even
be sure if the poor girl had even had her first period since
the average age for that was 16 a long time ago.
And don't forget
that in his 60s, Brigham Young added 3 girls in their 20s
to his harem.
And the Prophet
John Taylor married his 26 year old nurse (who was very
attractive and shapely) when he was 78 (3 times as old).
Josephine's father performed the marriage to Taylor.
In the early
days of Utah, if a father decided to give his daughter to
another man as a plural wife, she would better not refuse,
or there was often hell to pay. Mormon fathers in the 19th
century were known to beat their daughters and threaten
them if they refused to be a plural wife for the selected
older man. This same behaviour commonly occurs even today
within Mormon polygamist groups.
One of the most
popular explanations in the LDS church about polygamy is
the notion that polygamy became necessary because there
was a surplus of women and a shortage of men. This common
belief by uninformed Mormons is complete nonsense, and is
The Utah Historical
Society includes population statistics in their library.
The source for these statistics is the United States Bureau
1850 total 11,380 male 6,046 female 5,334
1860 total 40,273 male 20,255 female 20,018
1870 total 86,786 male 44,121 female 42,665
1880 total 143,963 male 74,509 female 68,454
1890 total 210,779 male 111,975 female 98,804
1900 total 276,749 male 141,687 female 135,062
The census figures
after the periods listed above are irrelevant, but it's
interesting to note that there were more males than females
in Utah from theearly settlement until the 1960 census.
One origin of
the "more female than male" belief may have come
from the following statement:
early days of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints, an unusual condition prevailed. More women than
men joined the church...There were not enough men to go
around...The alternative was plural marriage."(The
Restored Church, by William E. Berrett, 1956, p.250)
from "The Restored Church" is completely false
and was refuted by LDS Apostle John A. Widtsoe:
implied assumption in this theory, that there have been
more female than male members in the Church is not supported
by existing evidence. On the contrary, there seems always
to have been more males than females in the Church...The
United States census records from 1850 to 1940, and all
available Church records, uniformly show a preponderance
of males in Utah...This theory is not defensible since
there was no surplus of women."
- LDS Apostle John A. Widstoe, Evidences and Reconciliations,
1960, pages 390-392
It seems evident
that some leaders of the Church (and others such as seminary
and institute teachers, Sunday School teachers, etc) are
aware of the fallacy stated by Berrett, but perpetuate the
rumor because it keeps members from asking the "dangerous"
questions, and offers some sort of a weak explanation for
the practice of polygamy for over 50 years in early Utah.
on Mormon Polygamy
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